Players find Beijing traffic the first hazard

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 1996, 12:00am

Life in the Beijing fast lane has not been easy for competitors or organisers at the US$400,000 Volvo China Open.

For many players the problem has not been negotiating the hazards on the 6,956-yard Beijing International Golf Club layout, but those along the route to the club, some 45 kilometres north of the capital.

Although Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng was setting a blistering halfway pace with a six-under 66 to follow his opening 70, it was the subject of slow progress that was one of the major topics of conversation.

Rather than moaning about five-hour plus rounds, it was the pace of the journey to the course that caused consternation.

Under normal circumstances the trip should take about an hour by bus. However, so clogged is the Beijing traffic as a result of major roadworks that it has been known to take almost double the time.

In an attempt to speed up the process for the benefit of all, organisers went out of their way to arrange for each of the buses to have a police escort. A great idea.

However, not all of the escorts had studied their maps and ended up taking some of the buses along the longer, scenic route. Yesterday, the 9.30 am bus arrived at the club 30 minutes after the players had disembarked from the 10 am bus.

To date, though, no one has missed their tee-off time, although some, preferring to play safe, have moved to a hotel closer to the course.

One player who has no cause for complaints on any counts is 30-year-old Prayad, making his first appearance in the Chinese capital since the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

And he's enjoying himself rather more this time, firing seven birdies against a solitary bogey yesterday to move one stroke clear of Taiwan's Hsieh Yu-shu and American-based Englishman Edward Fryatt.

On another day of low scoring, a China Open record of 65 was recorded by American Christian Pena and Chou Hing-nan of Taiwan, who appeared poised for a 63 and a share of the lead, but spoilt his card with bogeys on his final two holes.

Although joint overnight leaders Cassius Casas of the Philippines and Japan's Nobuhito Sato remained in contention, others moved in reverse, including veteran Taiwanese Lu Chien-soon who followed his opening 67 with a 75 and China's Wu Xiangbing who went from 67 to 76.